Two disqualified drivers who were both caught behind the wheel of a stolen car have been jailed and banned from driving for a total of 17 years.
In a case branded as “terrible” by their own defence counsel, Ronald James Waller, 27, from Bandon Court in Belfast and his 21-year-old co-accused Marc Samuel Spencer, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, appeared at Belfast Crown Court on a number of charges arising from an incident last September.
Waller was jailed for 22 months, and Spencer was handed a four-and-a-half year sentence.
The crime spree started with the theft of a vehicle from a house in north Belfast and ended in the stolen vehicle being driven on three wheels and crashing into two other vehicles, which resulted in two road-users being hospitalised.
Crown prosecutor Simon Jenkins told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that on the afternoon of September 12 last year, a house on the Deerpark Road was broken into whilst the occupant was upstairs, and the keys to a Ford B-Max were taken.
The Ford was then stolen from outside the property, and as a result of the theft police set up a checkpoint on the Ballutoag Road.
A stinger was deployed, which the stolen vehicle drove through, resulting in the deflation of one of the Ford’s tyres.
At this point, Waller – who had been driving the car – got out of the vehicle and gave himself up to police. As officers approached the Ford, Spencer moved from the passenger’s seat into the driver’s seat and drove the Ford away at speed.
Police gave chase and during the pursuit, Spencer drove at speeds of up to 60mph and at times on the wrong side of the road to pass other vehicles.
Mr Jenkins said that at this point, the deflated tyre came off the Ford. Spencer continued to drive the vehicle on just three wheels until he collided with a Mercedes van and a Kia Picanto which had a female driver and her 17-year old daughter on board.
The court heard that while the van driver was uninjured, the two females sustained injuries which required hospital treatment.
Following the collision with the other vehicles, Spencer mounted a footpath and crashed into an NIE electric box, causing damage totalling £9,399.
When the stolen car finally came to a stop, Spencer was arrested. Whilst he was being detained Waller jumped out of the back of the police car and ran off, but was detained promptly.
Mr Jenkins revealed that when arrested Spencer was found to be drink driving, and he also admitted he had taken Diazepam.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to a total of nine offences including burglary, aggravated vehicle taking causing injury, driving whilst disqualified and driving with excess alcohol.
Waller admitted three offences, namely driving whilst disqualified, driving with no insurance and escaping from lawful custody.
Defence barrister Jonathan Connolly – who represented both men – branded the incident as “terrible” and said: “The best that can be said about these offences is that it could have been worse.
“Thankfully the householder was not confronted or disturbed and thankfully the injuries caused to the members of the public weren’t any more serious than they were. Someone could have been killed, or someone could have been maimed.”
Waller, who has 10 previous convictions for driving whilst disqualified, was banned from driving for 10 years, whilst Spencer was banned for seven years.
Both men will also spend half their sentences in jail, and half on supervised licence when released.